Effects of Hurricanes in Louisiana on Researchers

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On the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Ida hit Louisiana, destroyed houses and buildings, and closed universities. The rapid evolution of Hurricane Ida from category one status in the Gulf of Mexico to category 4 level at landfall was a frightening feature of the storm.

The storm’s strength grew so quickly and dramatically that the National Hurricane Center (NHC) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration labeled Ida a fast-strengthening storm.

When Hurricane Ida stormed into New Orleans a few days ago, researchers were happy that the category-4 hurricane didn’t wholly drown the city. Its flood-control levee system, strengthened in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina 16 years ago, appeared to be holding.

What shocked them was the extent of Ida’s damage to Louisiana’s electrical grid. Louisiana’s electrical grid is still 30 percent out of service, leaving residents to roast in the heat. Moreover, Hurricane Ida is estimated to have created nearly $18 billion in damage, and researchers are rushing to conserve specimens and keep projects working.

 

Hurricane Ida has caused Researchers in Louisiana to Reconsider their Future

Major Hurricane Ida made landfall in Louisiana and Grand Isle on Sunday, Aug. 29. Scientists are concerned that the hurricanes’ intensity, coupled with state and national guards’ inability to adapt infrastructure to changing climate, will put the millions of souls living along the Louisiana coast at risk. Scientists are also concerned that the intensity of the tropical cyclone may discourage scientists from enrolling in colleges in the area. And undertaking critical research on the ecological effects of climate change along the shore.

“You have to wonder, how much more can this area take and continue to spring back?” states Allyse Ferrara. After witnessing the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, she decided to launch a community-based coastal rehabilitation project. Located southwest of New Orleans, Thibodaux was hit directly by Ida and will be without power for days. “I’m terrified to see what some of the sites we work at look like,” she said, who is a fish biologist at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux.

According to Sunshine Van Bael, the consequence of Hurricane Ida is an “inside out” variant of the COVID-19 outbreak: last year. “We were in quarantine and trapped in our houses, and we couldn’t go to the lab,” she says. “And now with Ida and its after-effects, it’s the opposite — it’s like we’re trapped away from our home, and everybody has evacuated.” “We still can’t get to our labs,” Van added, who is a microbial ecologist at Tulane University in New Orleans.

According to Entergy Corporation, the New Orleans-based company that supplies almost all Louisiana’s energy, Ida damaged or destroyed more than 30,000 power-line poles. And it destroyed nearly 6,000 transformers throughout the area with its 240-kilometer-per-hour winds. Although the company is making progress, it estimates that it will take until the end of the month to gain back electricity to all of Louisiana’s cities.

In addition, a tropical depression in southeastern Louisiana and the Mississippi river had more adverse effects than Katrina, Zeta, Ike, and Delta combined had.

 

 

Van Bael was relieved to see that Ida had missed her home and, for the most section, her community when she examined the devastation. But, on the other hand, her lab was at risk when she observed the destruction day after it swept through. Tulane’s backup generator had collapsed, destroying frozen seeds and genetic material, most of which resulted from years of research.

Notwithstanding spotty phone connectivity in the storm’s aftermath, she and coworkers quickly called and emailed colleagues. They called coworkers from the ecology and evolutionary biology department to see if they had any freezer space to provide. Their appeals were overheard, and Van Bael transported cooler-packed samples to Iowa State University in Ames, 1,600 kilometers north.

When Ida devastated the New Orleans electricity grid, Keith Clay, a microbial ecologist at Tulane, was shocked. Because he lived on high land that didn’t drown after Katrina, he preferred to stay in town during the storm. But, later, when “reality sunk in” that there would be no power for days or even weeks, he opted to flee.

It’s been a week since Hurricane Ida hit the gulf coast, and its devastating impacts are still being felt in the region. Storm surge is the most dangerous of all the risks Hurricane Ida has brought to life and property along the shore. It has the potential to uproot homes, flood riverfront settlements, and storms can move inland. In addition, hurricane Ida can further devastate dunes and flood defenses that usually safeguard coastal areas from storms.

 

 

Researchers are also debating how much longer they can go. In hurricanes season, hurricanes become stronger and escalate more quickly; they think climate change will become a factor in their judgments about which projects to undertake. “Instead of writing grants to work way out on the coast, which can get hammered over and over again, I might consider focusing more energy on wetlands that are closer to the city,” says Van Bael.

She claims that the tragic irony of the situation is that we “direly need” research along the shore to comprehend the genuine ecological implications of climate change fully. She added that keeping such high-risk initiatives continuing may demand additional financing to encourage researchers.

Experts argue that Louisiana’s prolonged power outage highlights the urgent need to focus on climate adaptation in the state. But, according to Jesse Keenan, an urban planning scholar at Tulane, governments should fix the fundamental issues that underlie climate vulnerability instead of repeatedly preparing for disasters.

“We’ve framed climate change in very localized terms that are very episodic and are understood in terms of shocks,” he says. Local officials should instead consider short-term infrastructural shocks and long-term demands on the system, he says.